From the 1st to the 7th of June each year, Shelter Scotland marks Volunteers’ Week, a national celebration of the contribution that volunteers make to society. Sarah Latto discusses why.
Volunteers are reported to contribute over £2 billion to the Scottish economy each year, and play a vital role in helping Scotland’s communities to thrive. Given this remarkable figure, the theme for Volunteers’ Week in Scotland, ‘Volunteers are the Golden Thread in society’, seems entirely fitting.
This theme also reflects the reality here in Shelter Scotland. Volunteers are, quite literally, the golden thread running through the organisation, and the variety of ways that volunteers support our work continues to grow. For those approaching us for support or advice about housing issues, we now have volunteers who are involved at almost every stage of the journey. Want to find out how? We’ve shared a story with you.
We have had approximately 85 volunteers at any one time supporting our work over the past financial year, filling a wide variety of roles including administration, befriending, research, DIY and online chat. We’ve also had some more unusual volunteer roles, including a dog in Paisley who provides pet therapy! Our volunteers (Nairn the Labrador excluded…) contributed over 9000 hours throughout the year, and we simply wouldn’t have had the same impact without their support.
Perhaps the most encouraging trend from last year is the number of our volunteers who have lived experience of homelessness. Suzanne, who recently spoke about her own experiences at our Homelessness Conference, is a regular volunteer in our Dundee Community Hub. When asked what inspired her to volunteer, Suzanne said:
‘Having lived experience of homelessness has taught me that it can happen to anyone and sometimes all you need to get back on your feet is the right help. Having the opportunity to use this experience to help other people is a gift.’
Building on our success last year, the Volunteering team in Scotland plans to increase the number of volunteers and the variety of roles in the coming months. This week we will see 20 new volunteers finishing their training to fill 2 brand new roles in our Community Hubs. Support volunteers will assess the needs of people who drop into the Hub for advice and provide low level support or guidance if that is all that is required. In addition, our new Advocacy volunteers will support people to attend important appointments with a range of agencies to help them find or sustain a housing.
And it doesn’t stop there! We have plans to develop volunteer roles for service user feedback, community engagement and campaigning in the months to come. We are also instigating a Volunteer Forum in Scotland so that our volunteers can share their ideas and opinions about how we support them. It’s definitely going to be an exciting year, with lots of ways for new and existing volunteers to get involved!
- Sarah Latto is the volunteer manager for Shelter Scotland